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Melting Ice Puts Harp Seals at Risk

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Melting Ice Puts Harp Seals at Risk

Melting Arctic ice isn’t just a concern for polar bears - a recent study shows that harp seals are also struggling with the warming Arctic conditions.

Melting Arctic ice isn’t just a concern for polar bears—a recent study published in the peer-reviewed PLoS ONE shows that harp seals are also struggling with the warming Arctic conditions.

Over the past 32 years, the North has been warming and ice has been melting, causing the harp seal’s breeding grounds to shrink, and nearly all baby seal pups in the North Atlantic to die. These breeding areas are essential for the seal pups to learn how to hunt, while staying safe from predators before they’re old enough to fend for themselves.

Researchers are not sure whether the species will be able to adapt and find more stable breeding grounds. Generally, the seals return to the same breeding grounds, even if the conditions were poor the year before.

The researchers explain that harp seals aren’t the only seals vulnerable to melting ice, “In particular, hooded seals (Cystophora cristata) may be especially at risk.”

According to the Canadian Ice Service, 2011 was the second lowest Canadian Arctic summer sea ice level on record. Melting Arctic ice puts the entire Arctic food chain at risk, from walruses to polar bears. It also impacts the Inuit’s traditional hunting methods and grounds.

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